Do Something Every Day That Sucks

March 9, 2024

Lurking in my lower back, there is a pain monster waiting to get out of its cage. For much of my adult life, it’s just waiting for the right moment – it may start roaring when I’m swimming into a flip turn, executing a golf swing, sitting at my computer for too long, or just bending over to tie my shoes. And when it roars, I know it’s got me for a few days while my back spasms persist. During that lovely time, I wake up in the morning, crawl to the shower, eventually stand up, then get on with my day. In a perfect world, I’d have a hot tub in the backyard and a masseuse ready to knead out those knots. But instead, I rely on exercises that several physical therapists have taught me. If I can just do at least fifteen minutes of stretching a day, and better yet, 45 additional minutes of core and leg strengthening, then I can keep that monster locked up in its cage. 

It’s so simple!

But here’s the thing, life gets in the way of those additional fifteen to 45 minutes. Even in my mostly retired state, there are way better and far more enjoyable ways to spend my time. I don’t mind the stretching, but it’s a little boring, and there are always other activities I’d rather be doing. And I really don’t like strength building at all. I love waking up early and diving into the pool with my masters team at 5:55 AM. I truly enjoy running around the pickleball court or walking a golf course. But I really dislike the pushups, squats, wall sits, planks, curls, sit ups, and the rest of the strength building sets.

When we went to Japan, I did no stretching and no strength building, as is usual when I travel. It was a vacation! Why ruin the trip by doing things I don’t want to do? I was too busy doing fun stuff! Sure, the hotel had a gym. And I could have done a lot of my lower back exercises in the room. But . . .  I didn’t. When I got home, I was tired from the jet lag and I told myself that the extra hour of sleep was more important than those exercises. Pretty soon, it had been almost three weeks since I had stretched or tried to make myself stronger. 

Sure enough, the monster woke up. I felt that twitch, and I knew I had unlocked the cage. At any moment, that monster could throw a Tasmanian Devil fit and put me on my back. (That’s the image above by the way – that AI-generated tasmanian devil and the injured back sign. I like the real thing, but the Tasmanian Devil on the Bugs Bunny cartoons was, next to Marvin the Martian, my favorite extra character.)

So I yelled at myself, and did a lot of gentle stretching. I sent apologetic thoughts to my physical therapists for not heeding their advice, and I recommitted to my stretching and strength-building routines. I don’t like it, but I need to do it. So far, the monster has twitched a few more times, but it has not unleashed its full fury on my back. I hope that’s the way it stays. That’s a better outcome than I deserve.

After a few days of stretching and pain avoidance, I was walking with Maggie Mae and McDuffy, our two Scottish terriers, when I ran into Mark, one of my neighbors down the street. He was throwing his surfboard into his truck, and we talked about how cold the water was these days. He said he was going to suffer through the pain, and he would eventually enjoy it. He asked if I had heard of David Goggins, and I told him I had not. David Goggins, Mark told me, is a former Navy Seal (are all of those guys awesome advice givers?) who is now an ultra-marathoner, and one of his mantras is, “Do something every day that sucks.” 

My first reaction to his statement was to respectfully disagree. If you see Mr. Goggins, he’s kind of a ripped dude, so I think it’s important that he knows I was being respectful when I initially disagreed. But, as I continued to think about it, I wondered if, for those of us who live in a very comfortable world, his message may be exactly what we need to hear. Stretching and strength building are super sucky when compared to the rest of my day. It can be boring and very uncomfortable, and I don’t like either one. As I’ve gotten older, my flexibility has only worsened. Stretching can slow the inevitable decline in flexibility that comes with getting older, so even though I dislike it, I need to embrace it.

But Goggins goes further. He adds that we need to figure out what we’re not good at, and “triple down on your weaknesses.” He would say that my goal of just slowing my inevitable decline is a pitiful excuse for an aspiration. And instead of 15 minutes a day to stay a little flexible and ward off back pain, I should be doing far more so I can actually become highly flexible, leading to an even better quality of life. I have two friends, Brett and Bob, who religiously spend way more than an hour just stretching every day. So much stretching! So much time!

Many of the posts that I write are meant to kick me in the ass and motivate me to be a better version of myself. I need ass-kickers in my life. I don’t want them, but I am better off because of them. 

My swim coach, Nancy, is one of those ass-kickers. Even though I love going to her workouts, she always manages to give us one swim set that truly sucks. David Goggins would be proud. I pay good money for that pain, and it’s worth it. So I’m tripling down in my flexibility work right now, but that is mostly because my fear of that back pain monster is dominating my thoughts. 

The Dread Pirate Roberts had it at least partially right in The Princess Bride when he sternly said, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” I’m at a fairly good point in my life. It’s not perfect, but I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and love in my life. I have far more comfort and joy than pain at this point. I know tougher times will come, so I want to enjoy what I have while I have it. 

At the same time, if I don’t embrace the pain and all of the suckiness that comes with it, my quality of life will decline. So I guess if I’m going to do my best to heed John Wooden’s advice to make each day a masterpiece, I need to realize that life is pain . . . at least part of it.

I’m wondering what sucky things are out there that readers feel they need to embrace more. It could be about fitness. It could be job-related – public speaking, confronting difficult employees, or doing something new that comes with a risk of failure. It could have something to do with a relationship. Or, it could be saying something courageous in the increasingly divisive world of politics. Goggins’ point is that if we don’t embrace those undesirable challenges, the things we don’t do because we think we’re not good at them. we do not grow, and we allow unwanted and uninvited monsters into our lives.

Wishing us all luck as we work to embrace the suck.

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Post #103 on



I just gave the tip of the iceberg on the advice Goggins gives to others. And like an iceberg, the rest of the advice, the iceberg below the water surface, is downright terrifying. Marathoners are one thing, Ultra-marathoners are another, and former Navy Seal ultra-marathoners are people who should be feared. So just to be clear, I think this above the iceberg advice is about as far as I will go with Mr. Goggins. Could I be better by embracing more suffering? Am I getting soft because I don’t go for it as hard as he does? Absolutely! I’m looking for my perfect suffering ratio, a number too low to be on his radar.

David Goggins video on FaceBook


I’m not a fan of the word suck. You wouldn’t know it from this post. But it’s part of the lexicon now. It helped me when my friend Dale Eicks, the finest 6th grade science teacher I ever saw, wore a t-shirt to school that said “Science Never Sucks.” Then, in smaller letters below, it said something like, 

“It can push, it can pull, 
but it will never, ever suck. 
There is high pressure and low pressure, 
but it will never, ever suck. 
Suckus Impossibleus.” 

As his principal, he asked for my approval, which I gave in an eye-rolling fashion. His students, of course, loved it! And he got to teach a scientific concept all day to his current students, as well as dozens of former students who also loved the shirt. Dale, you were the best. RIP, my friend. You are missed.


Tasmanian Devil AI Image by Chris and Ralph on Pixabay. 

Back Pain Sign Image by 8thBox on Pixabay

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  1. Mark Massey says:

    I get it, and I know you are right, but
    my mind keeps returning to my mantra I have had for the last decade or so: No pain, no pain.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Yes. It’s exactly that. Seems like you are embracing that pain more than I am. So yes, as you always remind me, you are indeed a better person than I.

  2. Stephanie Constanza says:

    Mr Matthews,
    My mom sent this over to me and it’s a nice reminder that I need to do things that suck for myself. I’m constantly doing things that suck but they are usually kid stuff. Nice blog! And thank again!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Good ot hear from you, Stephanie! My son calls those sucky things “adult stuff.” Things you didn’t know how to do, make nothing better, but need to get done. Thanks for reading!

  3. Bill Sampson says:

    Speaking of doing things that suck, my first thought was of the Media Matters slogan: We watch Fox News so you don’t have to. Yes I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition, an error up with which I should not put. Anyway, I don’t have to do that and am grateful.

    To me, running sucks. When I could play volleyball six (or more) days per week I ran every day so I KNEW that at 14-15 I’d sideout because the other guys were tired and my partner and I would eventually prevail. I got to where I almost enjoyed it even. I was built in 1948 and consist entirely (except for lenses) of original parts, most of which are in working, but not volleyball working, order. So, thanks Mike, you may have given me the nudge to get out and do something that sucks – run for its own sake.

    I’ve been lucky with my back, mostly, I hope yours is ok.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I don’t like the preposition rule, and your ridiculous sentence ending in “put” is Exhibit A. That being said, I laughed out loud when I read it. Be careful running. Even though our bodies were meant for it, I’m not sure our old bodies are. Thanks as always.

  4. Libbie Scheding says:

    Hi Mike!

    You might like “The Comfort Crisis” by Michael Easter. It’s a really interesting book about the evolutionary reasons why embracing discomfort leads to a happier and healthier life.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Great suggestion. It sounds like a little more like something I can relate to. I’ll check it out.

  5. Seth Finn says:

    I’m a big subscriber to Goggins’ philosophy. The core of my exercise routine is about suffering, there are no easy runs, bike rides or swims (and I usually string a few of these together). And then to keep running I have about 3 hours a week of stretching, strength required (which does have other benefits). So all that stretching, strengthening is basically suffering, so I can suffer, I’m in deep. But I do it all because I feel proud of the work I do, I love being outside, love the adventures my exercise takes me on (beaches, mountains, running in a city I don’t know). My 2 cents with suffering is to connect it to as many larger purposes as you can, for me, those purposes are: 1)I want to prolong my good years as much as possible (Peter Attia’s book Outlive is a good resource for this concept). 2)I really like food, especially dessert so the more calories I burn, the more I can indulge. 3)I’ve found suffering I kind of like, I believe everyone can do this!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Well, Seth, I should have known that you are a DG fan. I love the larger purpose ideas here, and I know that you think about ideas like that deeply. I look forward to discussing that next time we’re together.

  6. Great blog Mike, could not be more spot on for my life! The back monster must run in the family by the way!! It’s not only that I don’t do the sucky things every day, I also use a highly tuned form of procrastination to convince myself that I will do them at some point the future, just not today. Well, after reading this I am going to do my best to change that, thanks for the motivation brother!!!!!

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